Gagnon Leads Field Hockey over Johnson & Wales, 5-2, to Advance to GNAC Championship

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Sophomore forward Jenna Gagnon (Waterville, Maine) tallied a pair of goals to lead the second-seeded Simmons College field hockey team over number three seed Johnson & Wales, 5-2, this evening in the Inaugural Great Northeast Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals on Swenson Field in Bridgewater, Mass. The Sharks have won eight of their last nine matches and improve to 12-5 on the season, while the Wildcats fall to 13-7. 

Simmons advances to the GNAC Championship match on Saturday, November 8 when it takes on number four seed Anna Maria College, which upset top-seeded Saint Joseph's College, 1-0. The site of the match has yet to be determined. The Sharks will vie for a conference crown for the first time since 2003 when they were defeated, 3-0, by University of Maine-Farmington in the North Atlantic Conference Championship. 

Junior midfielder Amy Cronin (Georgetown, Mass.) sent a centering pass to Gagnon inside the box, where she turned and fired for her sixth goal of the season just 6:17 into the match to give the Sharks a 1-0 edge. Sophomore midfielder Amy Wilson (Falmouth, Mass.) added to the Simmons' lead when she converted a penalty stroke at the at the 15-minute mark for her third tally of the year. 

Johnson & Wales cut the deficit in half when first year forward Giovanna Ciavardoni (Latham, N.Y.) fed senior forward Courtney McTague (Saugus, Mass.) for her 15th marker of the season on a shot right in front of the cage at 26:54 of the opening half. The score remained 2-1 at the intermission. 

Gagnon padded the Sharks' cushion to 3-1 when Wilson found her in the right slot for a sweeping backhanded shot that found the back of the cage for her second goal of the night just 2:51 into the second stanza. The Simmons offense took advantage of the Wildcats being down a player, due to a yellow card, tacking on another goal at 49:39. First year forward Samantha Rondeau (Franklin, Mass.) carried the ball from midfield and weaved her way through the visitors' backfield and past the keeper for her seventh tally of the year and a 4-1 Sharks' lead. Simmons continued to roll when first year forward Julie Saltamartini (East Hampstead, N.H.) also cut through the JWU backfield and beat the keeper for her team-high 13th goal of the season to give the Sharks a 5-1 advantage with just under 10 minutes to play. 

Johnson & Wales answered just 65 seconds later when freshman midfielder Ali King (San Diego, Calif.) picked up a loose ball in the box and scored on a backhanded shot to pull the Wildcats to within 5-2 at 66:23. 

Johnson & Wales outshot Simmons, 12-10 and owned a 7-4 margin on penalty corners. 

Sophomore goalie Brianna Rastello (Salem, N.H.) turned away four shots to earn the victory for the Sharks, while first year keeper Shannon Yoder (Boyertown, Pa.) made four saves for the Wildcats as well.